Syncopated sounds of computer programs alerting students of correct responses rang in room 203. Some used their index fingers to quickly tap on the mouse pads. Others had their small hands cuffed on laptop keyboards. Instead of seeing students embarrassed to raise their hands and answer a question when called on, technology has changed that dynamic at Philip H. Sheridan Elementary School. Now, students from kindergarten to fourth-grade are working at their own varying paces and are focused on individualized lessons.
“There is not one child that isn’t on task. They’re all engaged. They love this. The kids can work independently, and they’re not threatened by, ‘Oh, you know this answer or you have this,’ or not raising their hands and being identified in a negative way,” technology teacher Marsha Ryan said.
Known as the traveling technology teacher, Ryan has spent 20 years observing how technology is helping with students’ learning. From the vast array of programs available to students, Ryan said she likes that they are learning basic keyboarding skills, spelling, math and reading.
“It’s fun. I like what we learn. I like the math and reading,” second-grader Serenity McCorey said.
Having laptop charts on each floor and five smart boards throughout the school, Principal Awilda Aguila said technology is important to Sheridan.
“The fact that we really promote technology use is big. It’s just really neat,” Aguila said.
By reducing the school’s suspension and detention climate, allotting preparation training for teachers during and after-school and instituting several initiatives to raise PSSA standings, Aguila has implemented many changes to Sheridan within the past two years.
“This year’s focus is instruction,” Aguila said.
One system that was put into place was the Five Bees. This is a behavioral system for students to earn 12 loose bees given by the assistant principal, nurse, counselors and teacher leaders. Whenever a student is being respectful, responsible, positive, being a peacemaker and an active learner, a bee is handed out. Classes must fill their “Buzzin’ Dozen” to get a class treat. Treats are usually an extra 10 minutes of recess.
Another incentive is for students to have perfect attendance. In each class, there is a pizza pie chart, which is colored every time all students are present for class. Winners are rewarded with a pizza party.
Additionally, the school participates in the monthly Fact, Add vocabulary, Measurement, Estimation (FAME) initiative in order to increase academic standings. In January, classes focused on mathematics. In February, the focus is on literacy.
There are five areas of socialized recess organized by colors. Areas for soccer, hop scotch, jump rope and hula-hoop are separated. There is also an area for those who want to read quietly.
To help implement these programs at Sheridan, Aguila gets help from the teaching staff. This year, there are a lot of new teachers.
“I like my new staff because they’re very excited, motivated [and] they want to do things differently,” Aguila said.
Second-grade teacher and grade group leader, Margaret Breen was recently named a Nationally Board Certified teacher through Temple University.
“We’re really proud of having her here. I’m hoping she promotes it and gets other teachers motivated to do that,” Aguila said.
Additionally, there are two teachers who are specifically focused on increasing PSSA math and reading scores for students.
In room 308, Theresa Montgomery did “centers” with her third-grade students. For 45 minutes during the day, students worked on literacy skills. Montgomery used a smart board during instructional periods.
Teaching at Sheridan for 15 years, Montgomery said her most memorable experience was seeing former students.
“The kids that I’m teaching, I taught their older brother or sister. So, they come back and you get to talk to them and find out that they’ve been successful. That makes you feel good,” Montgomery said. “Seeing the kids successful and moving onto bigger and better things is always a joy.”
Nashyah Cooper-Long said she likes Montgomery’s class.
“I have many friends, it’s nice. Everyone is nice to me. Everyone is sweet and kind, and it’s just going great. I love this school,” Cooper-Long said.
In room 301, Megan Melnick and fourth-grade students reviewed PSSA practice target questions deciphering between facts and opinions. With seven years of teaching experience at Sheridan, and previously teaching first grade, Melnick said the students are responding well to the practice questions.
“I’m noticing that they like it. They like the challenge of it. They try. I love fourth-grade. I was nervous when I came here. I was afraid that they would be afraid of the test, but they’re looking at it as, try to reach for the top. They’re very responsive,” Melnick said. “I put a lot of extra effort into researching and try to create a good classroom environment and always constantly learning new things to implement. I think I build a good rapport with the students and I’m constantly joking with them.”
“She teaches in a fun way,” fourth-grader Karizma Naples said.
“She teaches us everything we need to know for fifth grade,” Tionya Murrell said.